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Demos Propose $70 Rebate Check For Each Citizen Democrats Want To Pre-Empt Republican Tax Cut Proposals

Tue., Dec. 2, 1997

Legislative Democrats hope they have a sure-fire attention-grabber in the enduring feud with majority Republicans over ways to ease the burden on the “little guy.”

Why not take about $400 million of the state’s projected $860 million tax surplus and divide it up among the people, every darn one of them.

Write 5.5 million checks for about $70 each and be done with it, says Rep. Hans Dunshee, D-Snohomish, the ranking Democrat on the House Finance Committee.

In fact, “Just Write the Check,” will be the slogan as the Democrats embark on an election-year attempt to show up the Republicans, who have been given to granting big tax cuts for business in recent legislative sessions.

Republican House Speaker Clyde Ballard, R-East Wenatchee, on Monday scoffed at the Democrats’ proposal as an election-year ploy by a party not known for cutting taxes.

Ballard, who did not rule out the possibility of a similar GOP proposal, said he would find the Democrats’ idea more credible if “they hadn’t fought our tax-cut plans year after year.”

But Dunshee said he and other House Democrats are dead serious.

He and some of his colleagues conducted six hearings around Washington in November, and among the ideas that generated public support, Dunshee said, was to rebate a big chunk of the surplus to the people.

“A lot of people agreed with our idea: We think we should save about $500 million of it, and rebate about $400 million.”

The surplus, which continues to grow in a robust economy, was generated after voter-imposed Initiative 601 mandated spending limits even as tax dollars continued to roll in.

But Republicans say the approach isn’t necessarily the best one for taxpayers.

“It indicates yet again that the minority party doesn’t want to cut taxes. Taking $400 million in surplus revenues and distributing it to every resident of the state as a sort of rebate doesn’t do anything to alter the taxes that people will pay in the future. It’s entirely one-time,” said Jack Archer, top fiscal strategist for the Republican House.

He and Ballard also questioned how it is the Democrats could embark on a give-back and still reduce the motor vehicle excise tax and homeowner property taxes, as they have said they wanted to do.

“How many times can you spend the same money?” Archer asked.

Dunshee said the Democrats want only to spend it once, “but this time on the people and not on big business.”

“We’re presenting this as an alternative to business as usual, and people at the hearings liked it. They are sick and tired of watching to see which lobbyist can cut the fat hog” for a tax break, Dunshee said.

xxxx REBATE DEBATE Under the Democrats’ plan, each of Washington’s 5.5 million residents would get a check for about $70. A family of four would get about $280.


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